Communications: Uniquely You, and From the Heart

I recently came across this post by Andrew Simonet, the founder of Artist U, which offers simple but incredibly sound advice about how to communicate with your friends and supporters. I recommend it highly.

Telling Your Stories – with a Hollywood Touch

Movie Posters

Photo credit: MLHS

Great stories can inspire belief, passion and loyalty. Nonprofit communications consultant Nancy Schwartz identifies six types of stories nonprofits are well suited to tell and offers tips about making them memorable.

But nobody has mastered the storytelling arts like Hollywood. Mark Phillips, CEO of the British agency Blue Frog, reveals the story arc that underpins most Hollywood product in a post aptly titled, “Write a Soap Opera, Not a News Story.”

Your Story, As Told By Others

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin l...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The American Red Cross took a risk last year: it mailed video cameras to 300 families or individuals who had received services from Red Cross and asked them to tell their stories. The risk paid off with a brilliant campaign, featuring 25 home-made video testimonials edited to about 30 seconds each.

It’s brilliant, in my opinion, because it has:

  1. Good Storytelling. People respond to people stories. This is a response hard-wired in our brains – literally.
  2. Credible Sources. Who are you more likely to believe: somebody who says how great you are, or you telling me how great you are?
  3. Authenticity. You can’t get much more authentic than real victims of traumatic events telling their stories in their own words, and looking you right in the eyes.

For more insight into Red Cross’s thinking on this project, check out this brief interview with senior communications professionals.

#STORYTELLING: Your Story, As Told By Others

Flag of the Red Cross Suomi: Punaisen Ristin l...The American Red Cross took a risk last year: it mailed video cameras to 300 families or individuals who had received services from Red Cross and asked them to tell their stories. The risk paid off with a brilliant campaign, featuring 25 home-made video testimonials edited to about 30 seconds each.

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How To Be Better At Telling Stories

Depiction of Queen Scheherazade telling her st...

Scheherazade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you can reduce your organization’s whole reason for being to a story packed with suffering and hope, love and pain, loss and victory – about people you can recognize as being like you – then you can attract support. Network for Good has a brief article with 7 useful tips for becoming a better storyteller.

 

How To Be Better At Telling Stories

Depiction of Queen Scheherazade telling her st...

Scheherazade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you can reduce your organization’s whole reason for being to a story packed with suffering and hope, love and pain, loss and victory – about people you can recognize as being like you – then you can attract support. Network for Good has a brief article with 7 useful tips for becoming a better storyteller.

 

Nonprofit Scandals Are Hurting Your Bottom Line

First it was CNN’s investigative reports on a veterans organization that paid its direct mail fundraiser $60 million in fees to raise $56 million. That got the attention of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. In June CNN found that the same fundraising firm kept most of the $25 million it raised for the SPCA. Last month Bloomberg News ran an expose on telemarketing fundraisers for major national charities who keep 85% or more of what they raise. When prospective donors asked telemarketers what percentage went to the charity, the scripted answer was 70% or more.

Now you’ve got a problem. Even if you don’t use outside telemarketing or direct mail services, you could pay the price for donors’ diminished trust in nonprofit causes. Prospective donors have more reasons to hang up on all telemarketers – even when volunteers do the calling – and to toss out all direct mail, unopened – even if you produce it in-house.

You need to shore up donor confidence in your organization, and that takes transparency. Explain how much of their money goes directly into your programs. Share stories that show how their dollars make a difference.Give them reasons to believe, and remember to keep it donor-centered. It’s about them, not you.

Here’s help: Guidestar has produced More Money for More Good, a free guide to communicating your impact and performance to donors.

Storytelling at Its Very Best

English: child enjoying clean and safe drinkin...

Child enjoying clean and safe drinking water from a newly built well, funded by charity: water (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To see just how powerful storytelling can be for your cause, take just a few moments to watch this new video from Charity: Water. The story of “Rachel’s Gift,” in brief: a young American girl pledges to raise $300 for Charity: Water, which helps bring clean water to Third World villages. But the girl is killed in a car accident before she can fulfill her pledge. Then something happens, and Charity: Water knows how to tell it. (WARNING: Two handkerchief rating, discretion advised.)

#COMMUNICATIONS: Keep Storytelling In Forefront, Whatever Platforms You Use

Retweeting can be huge but ephemeralOprah Winfrey likes a book. BOOM! It’s a best-seller and a big movie. Justin Bieber retweets something that catches his eye. POW! It’s trending huge for forty-eight hours! Who wouldn’t want that kind of attention? Well, often nonprofits and charities don’t want that kind of attention. The best/worst case of this kind of virality is the Kony 2012 campaign, which we followed closely earlier this year and don’t have the stomach to repeat.

What nonprofits and charities want is steady growth in awareness, volunteerism, and donations. They don’t need the huge splash (some small splashes don’t hurt!), but they use the same social networks that the Oprahs and the Biebers of the world use. How do they use the same tools to develop dissimilar results.

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#COMMUNCATIONS: Blog Loud & Proud & As Often As Content Warrants

Blog Writing Mac as keywords in a Word CloudA truism/maxim/cliché that has long inspired me whenever I start a new project is, “You can fight without ever winning. But you’ll never win without a fight.” The statement inspires me because it prepares me for the possibility of not succeeding while reminding me that the only failure is not being willing to try.

And blogging definitely started that way: Could I draw readers? Did we have the material necessary to interest people over the long term? What sorts of conversations could MKCREATIVEmedia help to inspire? With so many great blogs out there, wouldn’t it be easier not to jump into the ring?

Well, a bit over two years on, we’d like to share a few things that have learned in the competition and from it too.

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Facebook Opens Timeline To Organizations

Mark Zukerberg introduces his own Facebook TimelineOn Leap-Day Wednesday Facebook took a leap to the social-media future for nonprofits and businesses by opening up features that had hitherto been accessible only to individuals. Those features – of which Timeline is perhaps creating the most buzz – will be hidden until 30 March if you wish, so you have time to play with the features and prepare your organization’s new public face. If you get yours up-and-running early, you can already push the publish buttons, as Livestrong has already done.

Although the announcement went out today, there’s already plenty of assistance to introduce the new features and make them work for your charity.

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Free Guide to Video Storytelling Available

English: Mark Schulze, Videographer and Direct...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re resolved to tell your story better in 2012, take a look at this free e-book on how to use video for better storytelling. The Starter Guide to Nonprofit Video Storytelling is a joint effort of Listen In Pictures, a video production house, and Cause Vox, an online giving platform. The book even comes with a useful worksheet for step-by-step planning of videos. (Truth in Advertising – I helped edit the final manuscript.)

And while we’re on the subject of video storytelling- and free – have a look at 10 free tools that can help your videos do more tricks.

#Fundraising: Make A Video — Grow Your Outreach

Telling stories is one of the elemental qualities of humans. We love to tell them, hear them, and watch them. But sometimes changing media can short-circuit our storytelling instincts as we work our way through the technology yet allow the narrative to dissolve. In the nonprofit world, one of the great developments in media is video. Even inexpensive video cameras can capture amazing quality nowadays, and sites like Vimeo and YouTube offer free platforms to share your organization’s video with the larger world.

If you are not sure video can be worth the investment, did you know that YouTube is now the second largest search engine behind Google? Now that your organization can create its own ‘channel‘ for people to discover and subscribe to, why would you willingly pass up the opportunity to reach millions of people via the most human of activities? If the issue is guidance, the good folks at CauseVox and ListenIn Pictures have just the thing to get you started.

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Let Those You Serve Tell Their Own Stories

Texas writer Jubi Headley offers a strong case for getting the hell out of the way and letting your clients tell their stories to donors. The impact outweighs the risks.

 

Speaking of storytelling, Marco Kathuria of MKCREATIVE and I will give a workshop on September 9 on Storytelling and Video for Life Span Network, Maryland’s association of senior care provider organizations. (If you’re interested in seeing it or talking about it, get in touch.)

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Where Are Your Best Stories?

Yes, you want to tell more stories, but where do you find them? Consultant Thaler Pekar offers seven constructive suggestions on how and where to look.